To the Murray
What did you do with your rostered days off? Here’s what Michael Walley did
With the economic downturn, the boss is making everyone take their RDOs. Where I was going to take a week off in the school holidays I’m suddenly told to take Wednesdays off for six weeks in a row. But the kids are in school and the missus is at work, so what am I going to do?
You’re kidding, aren’t you? Being a new rider (six months) and turning 40 this year (stop laughing) I felt it was time to go for a longer ride instead of the quick squirts I was doing. My average ride now a ride was about 100 kilometres but the one I was planning was more than 300. I’m one of the new converts that thought I’d never join the rider’s brethren until I saw Ewan and Charlie on the telly and thought “if they can do it then so can I!”
(You’re laughing again) I know you long-term riders probably look at these guys and think they’re a bit soft with support vehicles and all but if they can get more people riding bikes then, let’s be honest; they’re doing us a service.
The Adelaide hills are great fun in every direction but all the twisties were starting to drive me twisty. I needed some long straight roads to appreciate this wide, brown land we live in. With this in mind, I thought some detective work would make it more interesting so a trip to the River Murray was in order. The media kept telling me every night that it was about to run dry while Queensland was under water and Victoria was on fire. Let’s go have a look, shall we? Heading out through the north-east of Adelaide took me through Gumeracha and Birdwood. The reservoir at Chain of Ponds was full, so was the doom and gloom warranted?
Passing through Birdwood I glanced over at the Birdwood Mill Motor Museum filled with old cars and, yes, old motorcycles. It’s a must visit if you come this way.
Just past Mount Pleasant is a right hand turn to Mannum. Adelaide sits on the coast surrounded on all sides by the hills except to the north. That way lies the Barossa Valley but that’s another ride for another time. The road I was on goes to the top of the hills then plummets down to the flats that lead off to the Riverland.
On the way up it’s all trees and corners so the view from the top is something as the distant horizon goes on forever. On the descent, most of the corners had loose gravel on them, whether from a local quarry or maybe I just copped a bad day with some mug’s load I’m not sure.
With Swan Reach about 55 kilometres away, I wound the bike up, gently, on my way to get my first glimpse of the Murray! The road drops down as you approach the river and stops at the ferry crossing with the Swan Reach pub situated up high on the far bank with a top view of the river from the balcony.
After a quick trip across, I grabbed a pie and iced coffee and headed for a shady place to rest and check out the river. There’s a shop just to the left as you get off the ferry and a nice little park down the road to the right with shade, seating and toilets. I walked up to the water’s edge and immediately noticed now nice and clean the sand was. The problem was I was standing past where the jetty ended! This sand should have been under water. A sign at the start of the jetty warned me that there was no diving. Mate. I couldn’t have made the water with a run up! It was obvious the river was in a bit of trouble. The problem was starting to hit home.
Back on the bike I started to follow the river to Murray Bridge. It was funny that on the left was flat, barren and desolate yet on the right it dropped away hundreds of feet to a river and some greenery in a mild sense.
There are three lookouts on the way and they are all worth checking out. Just don’t stand too close to the edge! The river looked more like a wide creek with the old water mark clearly visible. The road to Murray Bridge was making me long for my twisty roads again as with little to keep you interested it’s easy to become complacent. After another quick break it was time to head home to Adelaide but which way to go?
I could take the freeway. Nah, boring! I could take the back way out of Murray Bridge which would take me back to Mount Pleasant. More flat, straight roads. Nah, boring! The map revealed the old Princess Highway, which was the route used before the freeway was built. It was a great choice as the road has long sweeping corners that get tighter as you get closer to town. However, leaving Murray Bridge you soon come across the Monarto Zoo and as you pass there is a road sign warning of undulations that is not just there for decoration. I fair dinkum thought I was on a roller coaster at one stage but then it’s all good fun on a bike, isn’t it.
I have a map that is a hundred kilometre radius from Adelaide and I mark the roads I ride with a red pen. With this in mind and lots of dodging and weaving down back roads that would have me finding religion if I saw a truck coming the other way, I finally made it home. It was a barren and dead in a few places but with a bit of rain it will look different again. And you never know, I might get a chance to jump off that jetty. I’m gonna go plan my next ride and make sure those taps aren’t leaking.
See ya on the road.