On the Trail of Dan Morgan

Recently I read that the bushranger, Dan Morgan, was buried in the Wangaratta Cemetery, and that several memorials were around commemorating his reign of terror over southern NSW and northern Victoria.  Seemed like a good reason for a run on the Guzzi.

Involved in petty crime from an early age, Morgan – whose real name is uncertain – was eventually arrested for robbery at Castlemaine during the gold rush.  He was initially imprisoned aboard the hulk the “President”, in cells below the water line before being transferred to the ‘Success’ to work on the Williamstown breakwater.  The conditions on these vessels were nothing short of barbaric, even by the standards of the times, so rehabilitation seems to have failed.

Released in 1860, he failed to report to the Ovens police.  He commenced a series of violent robberies and murders between Whitfield and Benalla in the south, to Henty and Culcairn in the north, and Tumbarumba in the east.  He was probably insane and given to murderous rages.  He was known to torture his prisoners, but it was his beastly act, on the terrified wife of a suspected police informant, that frightened the surrounding population. She was forced to sit upon the flames of the kitchen stove, and it was only when she was well alight that he doused her with water.  There was a desperate shoot out with police in 1863 where Morgan only escaped by shooting his own mate, German Bill, as a distraction.

I thought I’d do a loop, so I fired up the Breva 1100 and wound my way through the hills, past Yackandandah, to Albury.  Hopped onto the freeway for a short run, then on to the Olympic Way to Culcairn – hardly any traffic.  I nearly had a heart-attack here as an oncoming semi suddenly snaked across the road ahead of me.  I thought he’d blown a tyre or lost his load.  A few seconds later I saw a dog in the middle of the semi’s lane.  That was skilful driving by the truckie – and fortunate for the dog that the traffic was light.

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In June 1864 Dan Morgan called at the Round Hill Station, just east of Culcairn, and rounded up all the station hands and their wives.  Here, he shot several people, including station hand John McLean who died.

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A few days later, he killed Sergeant David Maginnity near Tumbarumba.  In September he killed Sergeant Smyth near Henty.

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After a series of major robberies and shootings,  the New South Wales government introduced the Felons Apprehension Act in 1865, which made Morgan an outlaw with a £1000 price on his head.

I turned west and tracked out via Walla Walla, past Morgan’s Lookout, reputedly one of his hide-outs with a 180 degree view (on the hill to the right of the sign).  The roads out here were in good condition, some lovely sweepers, so I may have to ditch my Victorian-prejudices about our northern cousins.

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Eventually Morgan crossed the Murray River in April 1865.  Within two days he had held up and robbed three properties, burned down haystacks and out buildings, and held up coaches on the Benalla Road.  On April 8, Morgan held up his last property, Peechelba Station, near Wangaratta (pronounced peechle-bar, not peech-elba).  One of the maids slipped out and gave the alarm.  The station was surrounded and Morgan was shot by John Windlaw, one of the station hands.

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I rode through Peechelba but couldn’t find any reference to Morgan.  He died later and was beheaded, and doctors shaved his head and removed the skin from his face to make a death mask for phrenological analysis.  Great days!  He was buried at Wangaratta Cemetery.

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What sort of person would add flowers to his grave?

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2017 Spaghetti Rally

The Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria held its 37th annual Spaghetti Rally in October at Edi Cutting in the King Valley.  The cutting was formed when trains used to run from Whitfield to Wangaratta, carrying freight such as timber and farm produce.  The line closed in 1953.  The rally site is on the river flats below the old train line where it cuts through a spur.

My Cali EV loaded to go. The white tube is a map of Australia which I displayed at the rally.

Home for the next 3 nights.

We had a big crowd this year – about 250 – in perfect weather conditions.  There’s a bit of setting up to do, so I arrived on Thursday get everything sorted.

Toilets and a cool-room are hired for the weekend.

Firewood is supplied by the club for camp fires.

Cost for the rally is $30 which ensures a rally badge and a spaghetti feed on Saturday night.  The local scouts cook bacon and egg rolls on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so rally goers don’t have to bring much if they don’t want to.

Friday continues to grow in popularity.  We put on a spit-roast Friday night for $10 and there was enough to go around.  We sold out of beer, so had to do another run into Wangaratta on Saturday morning for supplies.

A lot of people shot through on Saturday to ride the local roads or visit wineries.  More bikes rolled up throughout the day, doubling numbers by nightfall.

Saturday night was spaghetti for tea.  The sauce had been cooked and frozen a month or so before, and Guzzi’s Pasta sponsored the fettucini. With another big influx of hungry and thirsty ralliests, we again sold out of beer and had to send out a rescue mission for more slabs.

It was “all hands on deck” to keep up with the registrations, T-shirt sales and beer sales.  I had sore feet after two days of full-on work.

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Breva fork oil change

The fork oil should be replaced every two years, so I was a year overdue.  Fortunately the Breva 1100 forks are quite simple to work on.  After a bit of a struggle getting them out – I had to use a screwdriver to lever open the handlebar pinch clamps – the old fork oil poured out as clean as a whistle.

Washed out the sliders with kerosene, let them drain, then poured in 450ml of the new Penrite Fork Oil 10.

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Reassembled the front end.  A couple of hours’ work.  Test run tomorrow.

 

 

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Another Bungendore run

When test riding my Breva 1100, Peter was unhappy with the clutch action when starting off from stationary.  There had been a recall of these early Brevas to insert a kit of washers to soak up the stress on the gearbox.  Apparently mine had missed out.  Pete needed to do some research, and a week later he rang to say he had the recall kit.  So I hit the road, again in cold conditions.

The gearbox had to come out and Mike said it was just easier to remove the whole engine.

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A few hours of work and the gearbox was on the bench.  Peter and Michael split the box, it was placed in the press, and five minutes later the kit was installed.  The box was then reassembled, after some fiddling with the pawl mechanism.

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In the meantime the new oil pressure sensor was installed, and the re-welded Hepco-Becker crash guards.  The clutch was in perfect condition.  Michael reassembled the bike.

A test run revealed a problem.  The idle revs were about 2400 instead of 1100 and further inspection showed that the headlight and battery charging was intermittent.  After some investigation, a 30 amp fuse blew.  Upon replacing the fuse, the bike ran like new!

Pete surmised that this had been a long-standing problem – a fuse with a fine, hairline crack – which had been causing me starting and battery issues for some years.  Disassembling the bike had brought it to the fore.  (Someone else on the Gussitech forum had had similar symptoms and it was caused by a dirty 30 amp fuse holder).

I didn’t mind spending the time and money on my 11 year-old Guzzi.  There’s no other bike on the market to replace it – it’s a big, comfortable, capable tourer – and none of the current Moto Guzzi offerings interest me.  I’ve spent nothing on her except for consumables, so she’s been a cheap bike to own.

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All set for another decade.

 

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Run to Roperville, Bungendore

Having piked out on removing the swing-arm and re-greasing the bearings of my Breva 1100,  I contacted Peter Roper at Moto Moda in Bungendore, NSW, about having some work done on the Guzzi.  The bike is now 11 years old and I’ve been doing all the routine servicing on her for nearly a decade.  It was time for a mid-life assessment by someone who knew what he was doing.  I’ve always preferred to deal with the bloke who was actually going to do the work, rather than an impersonal dealership.

A slow-moving high pressure system was sitting over south-eastern Australia as I set off in 5C, in and out of fog near Myrtleford.  I headed up the Hume Freeway in 15C, avoiding the cold and black-ice of the more interesting Corryong-Batlo route.  Crossing the Kosciuszko National Park was out due to snow and ice.  As highways go, the Hume isn’t too bad as it rolls over and around the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.  From Murrumbateman I cut across to Bungendore to stay at the Royal Hotel.

The swing-arm was removed and the bearings were found to be in good condition.  Mike repacked them.  “I guess they’re good for another 50,000kms”, I ventured.  Nope, said Peter, good for the life of the bike unless I do a lot of riding in the wet.  I don’t.

Mike noticed that, after re-greasing the needle bearings, I’d reassembled the rear shock-absorber linkage incorrectly – the “top-hat” spacer was on the wrong side.  Further investigation showed that a needle bearing was missing.  Maybe missed on assembly at the factory, Peter said, diplomatically.  Sheez!

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Peter and Michael working on my Breva 1100.

The oil pressure sensor had been playing up intermittently but a replacement hadn’t arrived in time.  Put back the original, sez I, which they did after washing it with contact cleaner.  (Works perfectly, now).  Mike removed the airbox to work on the oil pressure switch and noted that the throttle bodies were clean.  Peter reckoned that was because I didn’t ride hard enough and pressurise the crankcase!

The brake pads did not need replacing.  I’ve done 65,000km on the original pads and they’re still 90% okay.

Mike also found that both Hepco Becker engine guards had cracked at the top weld.  He would have welded them for me, but I didn’t have time to stay.

Mike balanced the throttle bodies.  “It runs like shit”, sez Peter.  It ran fine when I brought here, I protested.  “No it didn’t, so we’ve uploaded a Sport 1200 map” – (developed by “Beetle” in Wagga Wagga).   Mike said he could hear Peter yahooing for miles when he took it for a test run.  I took it for a run.  Geez, that’s a beautifully smooth, graduated map.  The torque rampages through each gear.

I waited until 11.00am for the fog to lift but it didn’t.  I was more afraid of the kangaroos.  It was 5C and I had to swipe my visor every few seconds.  I glanced at the instruments to see the fuel consumption was 7L/100kms!  Jaysus!  Then I remembered that the ECU had to “relearn” after a new map was installed.  It slowly improved to the usual 5.4L/100kms.

Cold, wet fog from Bungendore, through Murrumbateman, Yass to Conroys Gap.  Then into 8 OKTAS of blue sky and sunshine.  The temperature leapt to 10C then 15C.  I refueled at Gundagai and ran three hours straight through to home – the last hour in pain with sore hamstrings – I don’t ride enough!

 

 

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Cali EV electrical gremlin

After servicing my “new” Cali EV back to a known “ground zero”, I had some weeks of smooth running. I decided to come down to the big smoke for a club meeting. It would be easier if I overnighted somewhere so I hit on Noddy and Trish for overnight digs. No probs. Plan was to arrive at Yarck late afternoon for the run with the Treasurer down to and from Collingwood.

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My Cali EV on a run to the RAAF Wagga museum.

I loaded my toothbrush, razor and kimbies into the panniers and set off. I motored along; a beautiful day! I always feel like I’m going to a party when I’m on the Cali. I love the whole look and feel of her.

Occasionally, I sensed a slight hesitation. Imagination. Until I turned onto the Snow Road. There was definitely a hesitation in the EV’s engine. Things ran through my mind – plugs, leads, TPS, electric fuel petcock…? About the limit of my knowledge. The road was bit rough and one bump lifted me out of my seat and the engine paused momentarily. Ah ha!

I experimented by lifting off the seat and each time I did, the engine stopped. At Milawa, I chucked a U-ey. As I stood up waiting for traffic, the engine stopped. I pressed the starter. Nothing. I sat down and pressed the starter and she fired straight up. Well, at least I knew where to start looking!

At home, I lifted the seat and tool tray and examined the battery. There were several leads attached to each of the negative and positive battery posts. One of the positive leads had broken at the eyelet. I started the bike and could reproduce the symptoms by just touching the lead. I’d been fortunate that my weight on the seat had pressed the broken parts together and allowed me to get home. I followed the wire to the fuel pump which explained the hesitation I’d felt. My Cali is now 15 years old and the copper wires definitely have a “brittle” feel to them.

At my local “What-a-Load-of-Crap” auto store, I bought the requisite electrical gear and repaired the wire. I also adjusted the wire arrangement on the battery posts to reduce their contact with the tool tray when I was sitting down.

Moto Guzzi – making mechanics of riders since 1921. That’s often said in jest but it also implies that nimrods, like me, find Guzzis easy to problem-solve and work on.

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Mitta Mitta overnighter

The Guzzi club did a weekend run to Mitta Mitta and stayed overnight in the caravan park.  Roads were wet but I avoided the rain.  Fined up later and a perfectly clear, sunny autumn Sunday.  Had a barbie Saturday night and bacon and eggs in the morning, all cooked in the caravan park’s kitchen facilities.

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Brian’s bike did a clutch cable as he arrived but someone had a spare for another model!  A bit of work and it was made to fit and he was set for the return run to Melbourne.

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Cali EV 40,000km Service

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I came into the shed and found an oil drip on the floor, under the drive-shaft. Further examination found oil under the rubber boot. What I thought was a drain hole in the swingarm was a small set screw holding the carrier bearing in place.

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I suspected that the gearbox oil seal was leaking and sounded out a few members about removing the swingarm and replacing the seal. Robbo, the club technical officer, explained the process, which seemed pretty straightforward. The trickiest part was getting the driveshaft back onto the gearbox spline – but more tedious than tricky, though. At the Spag, I queried a few others. One suggested checking the oil levels in the gearbox and final drive.

Head smack! I should have done that first. On my Stone, I’d had the phenomenon of final drive oil migrating up the swingarm and dribbling out of the rubber plug in the right-hand chrome swingarm nut. On the Guzzi Exchange forum, Pete Roper had suggested putting a dab of silicon on the rubber bung and keeping an eye on the oil level. This I did, and hadn’t had any problems during the bike’s life. It kept the uni-joint lubricated, anyhow.

The gearbox oil level was fine. I placed a rag under the final drive and removed the level plug.

Remember those old gangster movies where Elliot Ness and the Untouchables raid the illicit booze cellars, smashing into the barrels with axes and sledge hammers? Remember how the booze cascades out in a fountain?

The oil spewed out of the final drive like a Texas blowout, overwhelming my pathetic rag and pooling over the floor. I ran around frantically looking for more rags to restrain the flood. That stuff stinks, doesn’t it?

Instead of 250ml in the rear drive, some clown had poured in 750ml (a “not unknown” amateur error when interpreting the owner’s manual “transmission” references). He must have been an ape, too, because when I tried to remove the top fill plug, I had to hang onto the EV’s pannier rack to stop the Cali rolling of the centre-stand and use all my leg-force against the spanner to undo it. Fortunately, the thread wasn’t stripped.
Since adding back 250ml, the drip has gone and the seals seem ok. Lesson learned: always do a full service when you buy a used bike.

Some weeks later, the clock on the Cali EV clicked over 40,000km so I ran the big girl up onto the bike lifter and strapped her down. I wanted to do a full, post-purchase service: the tappets, plugs, engine oil and filter, air and fuel filters. (I’d like to do a throttle-body sync but don’t know how to – yet).

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First job, drop the engine oil. I leaned on the ring spanner of my Honiton tool set – bought years ago from Andy Strapz, and a good piece of kit it is, too – to undo the sump plug but it didn’t move. I leaned on it some more. I put all my weight on it! I felt as if the whole bike and ramp would fall on me but it still didn’t smegging move! Who was this guy who treated machinery so?! Casting around for an extension, I spied my old Stilson pipe wrench, opened the jaws to fit over the Honiton spanner, and leaned on the extra 18 inches of leverage that it gave me. Slowly, slowly, the plug gave way and soon the oil was pouring out.

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Righto. Drop the sump to access the oil filter. Fortunately, the sump screws were easily undone and the gasket came away in one piece. I took the sump over to the bench and placed a cup-type filter remover over the UFI. It wouldn’t budge. Gave it some berry and the cup slipped around the filter. OK. Tried another type of remover but still it wouldn’t budge. It was difficult to apply much force because the sump was hard to pin down. I took it outside to a wooden garden bench, jammed it into the seat corner with my knee, put my weight on it, and placed one of those three-pronged gadgets over the filter. I leaned into it. The filter began to crush and warp! Jaysus! Who was this guy?! I might have to zap some roofing screws into this bastard to get it off. I tried again, expecting to rip the filter off its base, but imperceptibly it started to move. I kept the pressure on and it slowly rotated off. I’ve changed a lot of oil filters in my life but I’ve never had one that tight. I spun on a new Ryco RMZ126 filter and a stainless-steel hose clamp, replaced the sump and gave her a belly-full of Penrite 15W-50 Diesel.

Now the rocker covers. The same, presumably, great galoot had smeared some indescribable glue-like crap on the gaskets so they remained attached to the metal as the covers came off. I tried removing them with a blade but eventually obtained some gasket remover to soften them. It was an hour’s work to scrape everything clean with a blade and kitchen scourer.

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The tappets are supposed to be set at .10/.15mm. I could barely get a .10mm feeler blade into any of them! Smeggity smegging smeg! I cranked the engine over, looking for Sinistra and Dexter, checked TDC with my thumb and a straw, and reset the tappets to spec. New NGKs, new gaskets (with a smear of grease!) – goodo.

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The fuel filter was a bastard, too, because some dozy bod at the factory had run the oil breather hoses either side of the filter, leaving no room to extract it! I detached one hose and ran it behind the filter, as it had been on my Cali Metal. Replaced the 15-year old fuel filter – obviously no one else had removed it – with much grumbling and cussing as petrol invariably leaked out over my engine, despite all the rags I’d jammed in there. New sealing washers, new air filter – job done.

Replaced the tank and, with a squeal from the fuel system, my pretty Rubenesque gal fired right up. I took her for a run up to Harrietville and back, the smell of petrol in my nostrils as it evaporated off the top of the engine. Checked – no leaks.

“She’s running like a dream, she’s final filter clean, with Amoco…” …well, you know the rest.

Saluti.

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Weekend to Dalwhinnie Winery

The Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria arranged a weekend run into western Victoria to visit the Quoin Hill Winery and the Dalwhinnie Winery – both owned by club members.  I decided to cut across the top of Victoria, via Shepparton, Elmore, Raywood, Bridgewater and Logan to overnight at St Arnaud.

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By luck, I found La Cochon Rose motel in the centre of town.  Access to the motel units out the back was by riding though the old carriage archway.  So the Guzzi was parked off-street and out of sight.   And I was close to the pubs and restaurants.

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La Cochon Rose

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The carriageway entrance

The next morning, I moseyed down through Avoca – had a coffee – and onto Quoin Hill Winery at Waubra.  The rest of the club arrived soon after for lunch.

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Then we sped along the Sunraysia Highway to Avoca and Moonambel.  This is quite a pleasant ride through the hills with plenty of sweepers.  We rode up to Dalwhinnie Winery for a tour of the cellar and for some bike pics…

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…before returning to our overnight stay, the Moonambel Resort Hotel.  Stuart had us all sorted out with rooms and bike parking.  A shower, or swim, and we were ferried back up to the winery for a BBQ and tasting session.

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To beat the forecast heat, I was on the road at 8.30am for the 400km run home, keeping an eye out for bloody kangaroos.

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About 1000km for the weekend on the Breva 1100.  She’s 10 years old, now, and running like a champ.

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In Search of Ned Kelly

Living in north-east Victoria, one is never far from historic locations associated with Ned Kelly and the gold rushes -the so-called “Kelly Country”.  So I fanged my Guzzi California EV down the roads to Greta, the one-time location of the Kelly family home.  Greta is not far from Glenrowan, the site of the famous siege and use of armour.

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Ned Kelly was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880 and buried in the yard.  In 2011, his and other executed prisoners remains were exhumed and Kelly’s were identified by matching mitochondrial DNA.  His remains were returned to his descendants who granted him his final wish to be buried near his mother.  The graves are unmarked to prevent looting by the idiots in our society.

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It’s sad that the graves of the men Kelly murdered are not as well known.

 

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