Touring on the Blue Bird

As I write this in 2007 the Blue Bird has been back on the road for 20 years, during which time some interesting miles have passed under the wheels.

The Blue Bird is a rather simple machine, with a well mannered V-twin engine connected to the back wheel by a rubber belt, and not much more. This simplicity is a great boon for touring on the bike - there is not much that can go wrong. Over the years that has proved to be very much the case and other than a few small problems fixed on the roadside I don't think we've ever been left stranded.

Riding in the local hills is a delight, with narrow, quiet roads through usually-green countryside. But it's nice to get away from civilisation a little, and here I thought I'd put together a few photos of the Blue Bird as we ventured deeper into the "real" Australian countryside.

Blue Bird at Warren Gorge, Flinders Ranges, 1996

In 1996 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of our club with a tour to the lower Flinders Ranges some 500 km north of Adelaide. Based at Quorn for a couple of days in the middle of the tour, I managed two memorable solo excursions. The first was an early-morning run out to Warren Gorge about 20 km north of Quorn. Some nice gravel roads, eventually winding down into the gorge itself. If you spend some time in Warren Gorge, you might be lucky enough to see some members of the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby colony that live high on the cliffs. Very nice.

Return from Warren Gorge to Quorn, 1996

On the way out from the gorge, another road headed east towards the plains.

Later on the same day, after a ride on the Pichi Richi steam railway, I headed out again in search of the ghost town of Bruce. Bruce is located 10 km off the bitumen road in the middle of a broad plain - in fact I could see it in the distance as I turned off the down the dusty track. It's not quite a ghost town, and I spent some time chatting with the residents of the two occupied buildings.

Blue Bird at Bruce, ghost town, 1996

I had to drag myself away from Bruce because the sun was sinking fast and there was no carbide in the lights. Dawdling across the plain via an alternative route of a rutted dirt track suggested by one of my new acquaintances was a real pleasure, then back onto the bitumen for the final 13 km into Quorn.

Ten years later we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the club with a tour based in the Barossa Valley, the famous Australian wine region. As you work up to the top of the valley, you reach a quite extraordinary sight as the hills give way to the broad flood plain of the mighty (or once mighty, given the current drought) Murray River, Australia's largest. The Sedan Hill winds its way down onto the plain, from where it's a short ride across to the historic river boat port of Mannum. There's only one problem with riding down a big hill. The afternoon climb (up the next hill to the south) was steep and into a stiff head wind, but accomplished without too much difficulty.

Blue Bird on the Sedan Hill, 2006

The final photo (below) is also taken near a major wine region - this time Langhorne Creek south east of Adelaide. On the horizon to the left of the ruined building you can see the waters of Lake Alexandrina, the final gasp of the river Murray before it flows out to sea. It's a strangely desolate, if beautiful, place. Believe it or not, the photo was taken on a 40 C day (yes, 104 F) day with a hot northerly wind blowing hard. If our state of South Australia has an icon, it's the ruined stone farmhouse.

Old house Lake Alexandrina, 2007

That'll do for now, but there is a moral to the story. If you've got a machine - any machine - get out there and ride it. And enjoy riding it.

Copyrightę Leon Mitchell 2007

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