"Are you keen for an overnighter?" Brett asked me one day at work.

"Sure", I said, "where are you planning on going?"

"There are no plans", he replied, "We're just heading west!"

"Awesome", I laughed, "I'm in."

And it was done.



I crawled out of bed after 4 hours sleep and fired up my '05 Nightrain, cursing dogwatch shifts the whole time. I thought she looked pretty damn good in the gleaming sunlight with her metallic pearl paint and radiant chrome. I pulled on my lid and adjusted the new pair of chopper eyewear riding glasses I had on test this weekend, they felt pretty comfortable straight up.

Waving goodbye to my family I pulled out into the street and rumbled down the road, turning north for the 45 klick run from my home in Newcastle over the Sugarloaf Mountain range to Kurri Kurri. It was a pleasant run and only a short half hour later I'd pulled up at Brett's house a moment before James and Jeff arrived.

James' silver '04 Softail Custom looked slick with all its billet aftermarket accessories and Jeff's white '03 Anniversary Fatboy was still as ear shatteringly loud as I'd remembered from our last run. I was grinning like a madman, this was going to be fun.



James' 04 Softail Standard




Jeff B's 03 Anniversary Fatboy



Before long the deep note of Brett's 07, 96 cube Fatty bellowed from its S&S slashcuts and after some goodbyes the four of us thundered down the road in a solid wall of noise. Pointing the wheels Northwest we headed another twenty minutes up the road to the gas station at Rutherford to meet up with a few more of the boys from work.



Brett's 07 96 Cube Fatboy




My 05 Nightrain "Lucky"



One by one they rolled in, Jeff H on his brand new ’07 Triumph America with aftermarket Staintune pipes, Kev on his immaculate black ’05 Softail Standard and Mal on his grumpy old '92 Softail Custom. The pack was seven strong and the riding experience of the group ran very deep as to a man, they'd all been riding 20 years or more.



Jeff H's 07 Triumph America with Staintune Pipes




Kev's Immaculate 05 Softail Standard




Mal's 92 Softail Custom




The Gas Station at Rutherford



I knew then that this was going to be no ordinary run.

Pinning the throttles hard we blasted North up the New England Highway in a staggered formation into the teeth of a gusty North East wind that kicked up a shitload of dust.

"Man, these new foam backed riding glasses work well, I thought to myself as I copped some road blast here and there, none of it finding its way past the cool dark lenses protecting my eyes.

The sweeping hills of the New England were pleasant enough as the pack strung out a little at speed, winding around the cars and trucks that seemed to be all too frequent. Before long we'd found the turn off to the much less used Golden Highway that snakes West out through Jerry's Plains towards Duneedoo and Dubbo.

This is motorcycle country.

Thankfully, the wind died off the further West we travelled and with the sun shining brightly we thundered though the long flats near Jerry's Plains and into the start of the low sweeping hills, heading towards Merriwa.

Coming onto a long straight I saw James pulled over punching and pulling at his right leg .. "What the hell" I thought, puzzled by the sight.

A bee had somehow managed to fly inside the bottom of his jeans and sting the crap out of him on the calf.

"Damn I hate bees", he growled at the Jerry's Plains pub as we drank a beer on the verandah, washing down the dust of the New England. "They ought to kill them all", he laughed as the boys cracked jokes and had a yarn as riders always seem to do in the presence of each other and ice cold beer!

Firing up the bikes a little while later we kept running West towards our lunch stop at Merriwa and the pace picked up as the hammer went down. Roaring along the Golden Highway once more, the traffic got thinner and thinner as we travelled only the occasional car or cattle truck punctuating our trip into Merriwa.



Outside the Pub at Merriwa



Lunch at the RSL club in Merriwa was great, a typical country feed where the servings are massive and the drinks cold. After an hour of eating and yakking, the phone copped a workout as we tried to tee up some accommodation for the night. It was a pretty funny process as we still had no idea where we were going to stop for the night but after the dust settled it looked like we were travelling to the scenic town of Mudgee, the best part of 140 kilometers away.

Mal, Kev and James said their goodbyes as they had other commitments and could only come along for the day. Kicking up dust from their pipes, we watched them disappear into the distance as we fired up our own bikes and wheeled around West towards the Ulan Road turn-off another 70 klicks out.

Brett was on a mission. His 96 cuber wound up as he hammered down the open road over the undulating hills out of town, overtaking everything in sight. Jeff B and I were in red hot pursuit on our 88's and Jeff H's Triumph valiantly singing along at the back.

The pack was down to four.

70 clicks of high speed running later and we pulled over at the Ulan Road turn-off.

The pack was down to three.. uh-oh !

No triumph.

Ten minutes passed and still no triumph.

"I'll go find him", Jeff B said firing up his ear shattering Fatboy. "I'll call you when I find him" he called over his shoulder before punching the throttle hard.

Another ten minutes passes.. No Triumph, no Harley and.. no mobile phone coverage..

It was going from bad to worse.

"Surely he couldn't be that far back", Brett said with a quizzical look.

"Yeah", I agreed. "If we can't hear them coming soon we'd best go look for them too".

Another ten minutes saw us heading back the way we came looking for our companions and fearing the worst. It wasn't long before we ran into Jeff H and his Triumph, the three of us pulling over.

He hadn't seen Jeff B or his Fatboy and Brett and I were wondering just what the hell was going on !

We waited for just over an hour, when off in the distance we could hear that unmistakable song of a Harley at full noise.

It turned out that Jeff H (Triumph) had pulled off the road down a side street to fix up his gear that had been trying to dislodge itself at speed when Jeff B had ripped past on his Fatboy, neither of the pair seeing the other. Jeff B had just covered an extra 140 klicks riding all the way into Merriwa and back !. Ouch!

Together again, the four of us turned South down Ulan Road, passing a large open cut coal mine as the sun started to sink low in the afternoon sky. Wildlife on the roads are a big problem out here after dark and judging by the size of the roadkill the Kangaroos grow mighty big out this way.

Definitely not somewhere you want to be after dark on a motorcycle !

I estimated we had maybe an hour of sunlight left and a definite hour of travelling before we hit Mudgee. It was going to be tight.

Ulan Road is a good run. It is wide open plain country with gentle rolling hills and we made good time, cruising into Mudgee' pretty vineyard and tree lined outskirts just on dusk. I had to admire this town with its low wide spread of buildings, cleanliness and picturesque circular mountain backdrop as you approach from the North. An oasis in the flatlands.

Managing to find somewhere good to bunk for the night with secure bike parking, we headed straight to the nearest pub for a big feed and a big night out. Just what the doctor ordered to blow away the stresses of everyday life.

Lots of drinking and lots of laughs.

The following dawn heralded another beautiful day of sunny blue skies and only a whisper of wind. After an awesome hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and coffee at the local cafe, we hit the road continuing South towards the town of Lithgow.

The road South out of Mudgee is simply magnificent on a motorcycle, there's no other word for it. Up over a mountain pass and through the valleys they snake along in big open high speed sweepers with a good surface and plenty of breathtaking scenery to the sides. This was my second favourite part of the trip and in the cool crisp morning air it was really a treat.



Jeff B on the road South of Mudgee




Jeff B and Brett on the road South of Mudgee (looking back North)




The lay of the land around Mudgee




Jeff H on his brand new Triumph



After many miles of motorcycling nirvana, the air temps started to plummet rapidly with every mile as we approached the large town of Lithgow. Its a really cold place and one that I find ugly too as you approach from the north, among the dirty coal fired power stations that seem to leave a layer of grime on everything.

However, Lithgow has one utterly redeeming feature, its the start of the Bells Line of road which was my favourite part of the trip. 70 odd kilometres of pretty winding road along a ridgeline with breathtaking, panoramic vistas peeling away to the each side.

The climb up to the ridgetop from Lithgow is really steep, just a pure horsepower test interspersed with steep sweeping corners all the way to the top. From there it opens up into a long flowing ribbon of blacktop with the occasional steep slower sections as it climbs and falls, following the ridgeline with unwavering accuracy.

The scenery along here is simply outstanding and the traffic was light. There are quite a few fruit orchards peppered along the wider sections of ridge and the odd small shop along the side of the road, all of them with a fantastic backdrop of miles and miles of views.

"Jeff's Fatboy sure is loud", I thought to myself as I followed him down through the steep switchbacks towards Windsor in Sydney. We had been thundering along the ridgeline with grins as wide as a desert plain when the road abruptly dropped away down into the floor of the valley. I grinned even more..the Bells Line road has definitely got the goods and if you've never had the pleasure of riding it then do yourself a favour and go, you won't be disappointed.

Entering a very old part of Sydney called Windsor, we made a beeline for The Macquarie Arms, the oldest pub in the State of New South Wales, established 1815. A good lunch and a cold beer later it was mid afternoon and we were ready to turn the bikes North for the final leg home towards Newcastle.

Abandoning our earlier plans, we shot East from Windsor heading towards Hornsby when the funniest thing happened. On a good three lane-a-side road the four of us pulled up at a red light, the bikes spanning across two lanes. A lone rider on a Ducati 748 pulled up alongside us all and with grins all round the stoplight drag was on!

Now I don't know whether the Ducati bloke blew the start or whether he underestimated the dedication of the Harley riders but when the dust settled he lost the sprint and it wasn't through lack of trying !

We had originally planned to leave Windsor and scoot on up through the mountainous Hawksbury River area to Wisemans Ferry, then heading on through the pretty Mangrove Mountain pass but unfortunately, time was against us.

Instead we took the far less scenic freeway option up Highway One but it made for a quick trip and got us home in time for tea.

The trip was a memorable one for many reasons and several things left a distinctly good impression:

The Chopper Eyeware Riding Glasses on test were brilliant. The foam backing let no grit or dust through during the entire 800km roadtest and the lenses proved dark enough to tame even the harshest Australian sun. Look for a full review on these soon.

Jeff H's 07 Triumph America didn't miss a beat, handled well and had no problem keeping up on the open road. The aftermarket Staintune pipes definitely improved the power output but seemed to be a tad on the quiet side to my ears. The bike finish is brilliant with deep chrome and classy paint.

Twincam Harleys are good on tour, real good. Plenty of open road power compared to Shovels and Evos, oil tight and they'll sing all day without missing a beat. They're as easy to get more power from as Harleys of old and their resale pricing is brilliant. Throw in 4 piston brakes as standard equipment and its fair to say HD's products have come a long, long way.

The Bells Line of road from Windsor through to Lithgow and then onto Mudgee is somewhere I'll go back to over and over.. damn awesome.



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