The Joy of the Open Road

That’s not big sky … this is BIG sky – I remember standing on the side of the road in Montana comparing big skies with our guide.

Mostly people associate motorcycles with sinuous tarmac winding through mountain passes.  Not wide open roads with barely a corner in sight.  The two just don’t seem to go together.  I know many riders who refuse to ride open roads and will trailer bikes rather than ride.  But they underestimate what the open road offers.

Don’t get me wrong I love carving up a mountain road.  But equally there is something special about just rolling through a big country as the scenery washes over you allowing time to retreat into your own head space and just sit in your thoughts as the miles pass beneath your wheels.  Australia has many amazing places where you can feel very small in such a huge environment.  And I love it.

Last weekend I got to introduce this style of riding to a few friends.  Somehow I convinced them that heading west to the wide open plains was a great idea.  Three days on the open road in a big loop heading out as far as Hay NSW, covering close to 1,200km, passing through numerous country towns.  And with only 400km to cover each day there really was no rush so we explored a bit and hung out in cafes along the way.

Heading West trip

Our route for the weekend

When I think of big sky this is where my mind goes to. Out on the Hay plains with a dead flat horizon in every direction with hardly a tree to ripple the point of convergence between the sky and ground. On most days you can see the road trains rumbling across the plains but today it was very quiet with hardly a car to be seen. I love stopping on this section of road to just stand and take it all in.  And at night time with no light pollution the night sky is just breath taking!

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To be fair on Montana we only saw a small corner so it’s not really fair to judge their big skyness by that.  But when the comment was made about how big the sky was it was hard to not compare it with the Hay plains.

Over the years the mode of holiday travel has changed.  Holidays as a kid was often spent looking out the car window watching the world go passed as we dragged our caravan around the countryside.  Today as we become more time poor, fuel prices go up, and air travel becomes cheaper, it seems like holidays only start once you get to your destination.

It doesn’t have to be like that and the thousands of grey nomads roaming our roads are testament to that. Rediscovering their country and all that it has to offer.  The beauty and rich history that is out there to find and bring alive. We just have to make the time.

The one thing that I have had to learn is how to stop. It’s just too easy to focus on the destination and forget about being in the journey and discovering stuff. And if you take the time there is all sorts of interesting things that you come across…

A couple of examples on this trip –

Many country towns with an active car culture with a number having small museums and displays tucked away showing off the local collection.  In Forbes we found McFeeters Car Museum. They had a surprising collection for such a small town from Ford Model A to modern classics such as a new GTP Falcon and Maloo Ute, and everything in between.  There was even a few motorcycles peppered through the collection. It’s certainly worth a look and the owners are very passionate car collectors and happy to share many stories behind the various cars.

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At the old train station in Hay there is a small museum outlining the Hay Internment & Prisoner of War Camps during World War Two.  I knew about the Cowra camps but I never realised that there was also a camp in Hay.  Set in a couple of old railway carriages the story of the camps is told, including the story of the ‘Dunera Boys’, 1,984 German Jews and other refugees from Nazi occupied Europe who were sent to Hay in 1940.

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One of the things that have popped up around the countryside is painted grain silos.  These large murals have brought people to small country towns and have become tourist attractions in their own right.  In Victoria they have developed a trail (Silo Art Trail) that people can follow stretching over 200km that links a number of these painted silos in western Victoria.

And besides that they are just amazing.  This one is in Weethalle, NSW.

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One of Australia’s great tennis players was Evonne Goolagong who won titles including the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon in the 1970’s.  Evonne grew up in the small town of Barellan, NSW which has this fitting monument to Evonne’s achievements.

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Some more photos from the road

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Fields of Canola

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Motorcyclists saving country towns one coffee shop at a time.

Verdict … I really wasn’t sure how this ride was going to go but in the end I think I have new converts to open road riding.

My job here is done.

14 thoughts on “The Joy of the Open Road

  1. You have shown an exhilarating swath of an amazingly beautiful country. I, too, am something of a “grey nomad”, preferring my little car to the plane, the train or even the bus,so that I am able to enjoy the back roads of North America. I would take the same approach to any extracontinental journey, whether by rented car (in places like Iceland, Mongolia or east/central Europe) or bus (in more congested parts of the globe). Then again, i am also given to doing a fair amount of exploring on foot. Yes, there is no substitute for the open road, to regain one’s bearings.

    • Thanks for the comment. The back roads are certainly a great way to travel.

      I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a grey nomad. That’s a term that we use here to describe retired people who travel around Australia in their 4 wheel drives towing caravans.

  2. So glad you have learned how to stop Glen. There is so much to discover in the small towns and most people just go through intent on the destination. Thankyou for sharing the ride.

  3. Agreed. Lots to be said for open road, secondary highways (not interstates!). Here in South Carolina, heading toward the coast, the topography gets flatter and the roads get straighter. Forgotten small towns and forgotten small town culture makes these journeys memorable. Thanks for reminding this dedicated mountain rider!

  4. Looks like you rode through my home town of Forbes. McFeeters car museum is a great stop, they have live bee hive where you can try honey straight off the honeycombe.
    What ever drug you are on I want some as those roads from West Wyalong to Forbes and out to Hay are some of the most mind numbingly boring roads in the planet. I’m not sure how you do it. I want some curves on my roads please.

    Good post though.

  5. I’m a 70 year old Grey Nomad from NZ with a GSX-S 1000. I’m with you….. as long as I’m on two wheels and have a reasonable mix of road types, that’s just fine with me. The real key is being on two wheels, not four!

    Safe travels!

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